Written 30-06-2009 11:14:11 by Tue Steen Müller
Jurga Ivanauskaite is a cult figure in Lithuania. Born in 1961, the writer died young in 2007 leaving behind her a strong reputation as a writer with star quality, a writer who did not only write beautiful books and poems but who was also a political activist. A controversial personality who got into trouble when she took part in demonstrations against the Chinese oppression of Tibet, the country she travelled to and lived in for a long time.
Written 28-06-2009 18:35:26 by Tue Steen Müller
I was on a tour today. A magnificent tour. To the place of a film to come, and to the people who are characters in this work under development. It may sound like a kliché film, one of many about poor people, but what cameraman and director Mindaugas Survali has done is completely different and quite unique. For more than a year he has followed people who live in the forest next to a dumping ground, where they picked food and found metal pieces that they could sell on the market. Around 500 people were here and I am writing in past time as the dumping ground was closed March 2008, leaving very few people to stay.
Written 27-06-2009 17:41:21 by Tue Steen Müller
Screening day of Lithuanian documentaries for eventual recommendation for DOKLeipzig. 5 films to watch since my visit one year ago. Public funding for film is minimal in Lithuania at this moment. So competition is strong among the established filmmakers and there is no real incentive for young people – like the Lithuanians at the Summer Film Academy that I attend – to go for a job in the documentary field.
For 20 years I have followed the documentary scene in this country and have had the great pleasure to get acquainted with a language of originality based more on imagery and less on words. Documentaries in Lithuania by Janina Lapinskaite, Rimantas Gruodis, Diana and Kornelijus Matuzevicius, Giedre Beinoriute, Audrius Stonys, Arunas Matelis and others constitute an important part of the nation’s cultural heritage and memory. To quote the documentarian Patricio Guzman: A country without documentaries is like a family without a photo album.
Even in difficult financial times: Funding action needs to be taken, otherwise something valuable in Lithuanian culture will disappear.
Written 26-06-2009 18:04:26 by Tue Steen Müller
Statement of Iranian Documentary Filmmakers
In the Name of God
We are documentary filmmakers. Our work is to discover and tell the truth. Truth can only be found when all aspects of reality are told. In the course of recent events in our country, our national media, by deliberately hiding the realities, is making it impossible for the public to access the truth.
We are documentary filmmakers. Our work is through media. The National Iranian Television belongs to the entire Iranian society and should be committed to represent social events truthfully and different points of view in their diversity. It should not be the mouthpiece of a specific faction and ignore a vast part of society.
We are documentary filmmakers. Our work is art and we are committed to the culture, art, and language of our country. The language of journalism should respect the dignity and honor of a society. The National Iranian Television, by distorting and suppressing the news and with the use of degrading rhetoric, makes lying and slander acceptable. It also addresses people with degrading and abusive vocabulary and thus provokes the people into confrontation and uproar.
Read more / Læs mere
Written 26-06-2009 08:07:52 by Tue Steen Müller
One of the participants at the workshop, Italian Davide Mastropaolo, asked me for advice on a film that a friend had made with himself involved as co-producer. The film is about to be finished but – have you heard about that before? – the filmmakers has run out of money for a film that they have basically financed themselves.
Written 25-06-2009 16:10:43 by Tue Steen Müller
I showed a clip from ”Citizen Havel” yesterday here at the Summer Film Academy in Lithuania, as an example of how important it is to have access and to have time to follow a character, who is known widely by the public. I compared with ”Primary” by Leacock and Robert Drew, about John F. Kennedy, and ”War Room” by Pennebaker about the campaign to get Clinton to the White House.
Written 25-06-2009 11:42:45 by Tue Steen Müller
Audrius Stonys made a lecture this morning. I have heard him doing so many times and have written several praising sentences on filmkommentaren.dk – about this filmmaker who is for sure to be considered as a national poet in his own country, and from a world perspective as an excellent representative of a different documentary cinema.
The biggest censors are inside yourself, Stonys said, who grew up in a country occupied by the big empire and who did not really see films in general geting better after the independence. He said so after another pleasant view of the 1978 Herz Frank film ”10 Minutes Older”. I truly believe that film is a conversation between equal partners, Stonys continued, the audience takes part in the creative process, this meeting is the most important part of the filmmaking.
I don’t believe in films without mistakes, he said and went on to show a clip from his own ”Flying over Blue Fields”, where a sport aeroplane lands on a field, a man gets out, parks the plane and goes inside while the camera observes chicken and bushes accompanied by music. No words, I don’t trust them, Stonys said, and showed another clip, from his early work, ”Earth of the Blind”, that has no words at all. I want to catch the impossible, he could also have said the invisible and the emotions in a face, like he demonstrated in the film from 2000, ”Alone”, a film in many layers: a girl that visits her mother who is in prison, a film crew that is (the director’s words) ”using” her, and an atmosphere of melancholy, a feeling that is present in most of Stonys films. He did not show films from recent years, he could have done so, and demonstrate that he can also cope with words as he did in ”The Bell” that you can read about on this site.
Written 25-06-2009 09:02:57 by Tue Steen Müller
I am in Vilnius for a summer film school where students from countries all over Europe have gathered to make short documentary films about or rather from the 2009 European cultural capital. 10 films are to be made, research is going on, lectures have been performed as well pitching of the projects. Tutors are Belgian director Anne Levy-Morelle (”Gabriels Dream”), Polish Bartek Konopka (photo from his ”Rabbit à la Berlin”), Polish-English Witold Starecki, Finnish Heikki Ahola, local superstar Audrius Stonys and me as the only non-filmmaker.
Films to be made? Among others one that takes it starting point in the fact that there is a Frank Zappa monument in Vilnius, another takes a look at the ”independent republic” in the middle of the city, Uzupis, a third intends to bring in a story from the KGB Museum, a fourth wants to convey the spirituality of this pearl of a city....
Written 23-06-2009 13:40:06 by Tue Steen Müller
This brief intro comes because a documentary neo-classic is broadcast on Danish television tonight, on DR2 in prime time (8.40pm). It has been in Danish cinemas, it is available from the DFI, and if you have already seen it, take another look. The film is avaiIable on dvd from several sources. I shift to Danish and quote the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen:
Written 22-06-2009 23:12:59 by Tue Steen Müller
Well known and respected documentary filmmaker and journalist Maziar Bahari was arrested yesterday morning in Tehran according to Newsweek, that he works for. This is the start of the article of Newsweek:
Among the dozens of people arrested overnight in Tehran was NEWSWEEK reporter Maziar Bahari, who has covered Iran for the magazine for over a decade. Bahari was home asleep at 7 a.m. when several security officers showed up at his Tehran apartment. According to his mother, who lives with the 41-year-old reporter and documentary filmmaker, the men did not identify themselves. They seized Bahari's laptop and several videotapes. Assuring her that he would be their guest, they then left with Bahari. He has not been heard from since...
Written 22-06-2009 22:57:36 by Tue Steen Müller
... will be very much present at this year’s edition (number 20!) of the Sunny Side of the Doc. A so-called Bulgarian umbrella has been established to promote the films and projects that come from a country with several fine films from recent years. Initiator is the production company Agitprop represented by Martichka Bozhilova and Anna Stoeva, who are there to serve customers with Buldoc, ”a non-fiction kitchen”, together with other producers, the local MEDIA Desk and the national television. A presentation will be made of the new Balkan Documentary Center with this logline:
Written 19-06-2009 08:25:22 by Tue Steen Müller
Stan Neumann visited the workshop and showed his 2004 production for Arte France, ”Language does not Lie”, a film based on the diaries of Victor Klemperer, who survived Das dritte Reich and whose diaries were not published before the mid 1990’s, more than 30 years after his death in GDR, another regime that he was opposed to in his diaries.
The film is fabricated, the word Neumann used in the Q&A, on the diaries (1600 page!) from 1933-45, working with a very precise minimalistic film language. How can you build something, when you have nothing, Neumann said. I wanted to see it all from his place, literally, so I introduced a room with a desk by a window, a desk with a typewriter on which letters, one by one, are typed, to establish the nazi language. In between archive material and close-ups on diary pages reconstructed tableaux are introduced like in one fabulous sequence that tells about the consequences of hiding the Jewish star in public.
How refreshing it is to watch a film that talks not only to the heart but also to the head, with this brilliant text as a continuous reflection on what was going on in Nazi Germany. Much more impressive than the loads of tv films, the ”Hitler-hours” we call them in Denmark, that are broadcast every day all over the public broadcast system. Neumann stressed that he did not see Klemperer as a victim but as a fighter and had his own comment on today’s documentaries – too many documentaries are eaten by characters, and psychology, do something different please, he said to the filmmakers and producers at Ex Oriente 2nd session in Pisek.
The film will soon be out on dvd in France, published by Editions Montparnasse. Photo: Victor Klemperer.
Written 18-06-2009 08:49:23 by Tue Steen Müller
Italian director Alessandro Rossetto came to Hotel Biograf to show his 1999 documentary Bibione Bye Bye One, which is a wonderful b/w 75 minutes long journey into an area and a culture that the director knows from his childhood, 100 kilometres north of Venice.
Written 17-06-2009 22:02:36 by Tue Steen Müller
This EU MEDIA training programme, organised by IDF (Institute of Documentary Film), based in Prague, is currently holding its second session out of three in Hotel Biograf in Pisek, Czech Republic. Projects from Eastern European countries are being developed and the participants profit from meeting professionals with experience in the documentary world of directing, producing and distributing.
Danish born Gitte Hansen Schnyder from First Hand Films (FHF) in Switzerland talked about promotion and sales. She did so in general terms, with the showing of clips from FHF films from the catalogue. The actual example of a huge success is ”Burma vj” (photo) by Anders Østergaard. The film has sold to more than 20 tv channels and have been released theatrically in several countries.
Gitte Hansen gave a lot of valuable information, here are some points: More than 80% of our income still comes from tv... For every tv slot there are 100 films available, the tv people say, so the competition is strong...
And you should put this question to yourself: Are you ready to send me that project? The timing is very important. We – First Hand Films - want to be part of the launch. We want the freshness. On the other hand it is good to know that half of the income comes from older films... The festival world and the theatrical world are growing together. Festivals have become a market...
Written 17-06-2009 21:57:57 by Tue Steen Müller
Helge Albers represents the Flying Moon Filmproduktion based in Germany. A company that started 10 years ago and produces fiction as well as feature length documentaries. Albers gave the Ex Oriente participants a brief intro to the documentary history of a company that has been very much orientated towards a theatrical distribution. With success:
Written 17-06-2009 08:12:47 by Tue Steen Müller
Swedish film director and producer Fredrik Gertten has made a film, Bananas, that has reached the headlines – before its actual release. The Malmö based Gertten, who has been enormously active internationally for many years, and who for the film has obtained support from the American funds ITVS and Sundance, will see his film premiered in the coming days. In a letter to the international documentary community he and his coproducers describe the problems they are facing:
We have been working on the feature documentary BANANAS!* since 2006, and we are slated to launch the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, held June 18-28 this year.
The film follows a landmark court case - Tellez et. al. v. Dole Food Company Inc. et. al. - where a group of Nicaraguan banana workers, with the help of attorney Juan Dominguez, sues Dole Food for using a banned pesticide in their Nicaraguan plantations. Prolonged exposure to this pesticide was known to cause sterility in human males. It was the first time that agricultural workers from the developing world gave testimony against a US-based multinational in a US court.
In January, 2008, a full jury found Dole Food guilty of causing harms to the workers, and of acting with malicious intent. They awarded damages to the workers, and Dole is now appealing the verdict. Despite this appeal, during the trial the CEO of Dole Food admitted on the stand that he continued to use the aforementioned pesticide in his Nicaraguan plantations, after it was banned in the US.
Read more / Læs mere
Written 14-06-2009 08:44:35 by Tue Steen Müller
As part of the Moscow International Film Festival (19.6-28.6) two Russian documentary gentlemen, very often present in Western documentary events, Sergey Miroshnichenko and Grigory Libergal, have put together a fine programme. This is what they say:
43 masterpieces of world documentary filmmaking were shown in the program "Free Thought" since 2006. We were right in our undertaking. Our audience is the main indicator and it permits us to look with confidence at the prospects of our program and further advance of documentary films on TV and in cinema.
Once again this year the main participants of the program "Free Thought" are winners of the biggest international festivals like Sundance, Full Frame, Amsterdam, Leipzig, films that have won the American "Oscar" or the Prize of the European Film Academy to the best documentary of the year. As usual we have included films with high box-office returns and high TV ratings. We still believe that cinema must face the viewer and hope that all our movies will be a success with the audience of the Moscow Film Festival. This year we are introducing directors like Alex Gibney, James Marsch, Alex Gibney, James Marsh, Werner Herzog, Helena Třeštiková (photo from René), Erwin Wagenhofer and other talented masters.
When we were selecting for our program we realised that documentary filmmakers have turned their attention to the inner world of man, his place in society, his ability to resist global manifestations of evil in all its forms. In his last interview the prominent Russian writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn offered the following definition of good and evil: “The border between good and evil goes through all the countries, all the parties, through all classes and people, through every heart. And even in the heart of every person this border shifts with time. It always recedes, increasing the portion of good or the portion of evil. People are never the same throughout their lifetime. They change in the course of their lives, their portion in good and evil varies”. The authors of the films in this program try to push this border towards goodness and we are happy to help them with our humble work.
Written 12-06-2009 09:11:42 by Tue Steen Müller
The NFB (National Film Board of Canada) production on the art of documentary, featuring 33 directors from 13 countries, are being used for debates among filmmakers and with the audience. Here is a quote from a Realscreen article illustrating the never-ending-discussion:
Likewise, director Barry Stevens uses Werner Herzog's Little Dieter Needs to Fly as an example of fudging the truth. He says that Herzog asked his subject, a man who had been in the Navy, to open and close his front door a number of times to illustrate his need to feel like he's not locked in. While Stevens says it made a strong image in the film, he also feels it wasn't true. While some people might say 'don't let the facts get in the way of a good story,' Stevens believes that when it comes to documentaries, you absolutely should let them get in the way…
Written 11-06-2009 16:25:09 by Tue Steen Müller
Den korte udgave af Petr Loms film fra Iran bliver vist i aften på DR2 under den danske titel "Breve til præsident Ahmadinejad". Den er fin at se, selvom jeg klart foretrækker den lange udgave, som blev anmeldt på filmkommentaren.dk sådan her.
Petr Lom's film "Letters to the President", short version is being shown on Danish DR2 prime time, 8pm. Here is the review of the film that is also to be shown in Donegal in the coming days, see below:
Read more / Læs mere
Written 10-06-2009 20:14:01 by Tue Steen Müller
... is placed in Donegal in Ireland, an international documentary film festival it is, with a very fine international programme as well as an Irish. This is how the organisers present their festival:
”When we established the festival in 2006 there were a number of factors we could be certain of; we knew the location was first-rate in terms of its beauty, that’s one of the reasons we’re based here after all; we could be sure that visitors would be warmly received in the best Donegal tradition, and that they would revel in the local culture; and we knew we could run a good festival with local support and co-operation. What was less certain was whether we could get sufficient quality films and film-makers to come, not only to Ireland, but to one of the most remote parts of the country. We think we’ve succeeded beyond anything we could have hoped for when we started out in 2006, in attracting multi-award winning directors and films to Gort an Choirce.
The challenge, after 3 years, is to maintain the high standards that we have set ourselves and continue to build the Festival from year to year.”
No problem, several fine films reviewed on filmkommentaren.dk, are on the programme: Petr Lom’s Letter to the President (photo), John Webster’s Recipes for Diaster, Kim Longinotto’s Rough Aunties, Geoffrey Smith’s The English Surgeon, Ben Kempas’ Upstream Battle and Gan Chao’s The Red Race. And many others including King of India by Indian Arvind Sinha, who will be in Donegal for the screening. Well done, organisers!
Written 09-06-2009 07:57:40 by Tue Steen Müller
33 filmmakers, 13 countries, 1 passion: The art of documentary. This is the way that NFB, National Film Board of Canada, launches its interview-film that includes great filmmakers like Maysles, Kim Longinotto, Werner Herzog (photo), Molly Dineen, Heddy Honigmann and Stan Neumann. I did not have the chance to watch it at the idfa 2008 but the clip on youtube, see below, looks promising.
Written 07-06-2009 17:44:27 by Tue Steen Müller
I suppose that all public broadcasters have put a focus on the massacre on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing 20 years ago. A taboo in Chinese history, it is simply forbidden to mention it in Chinese media, channels like arte have made available interesting interviews with surviving witnesses and activists from the Democratic Movement in 1989, brutally knocked down and for several of the interviewees with year-long imprisonment as a consequence of their involvement.
Written 06-06-2009 00:01:14 by Tue Steen Müller
Born in 1924 (died in 1982) German photographer Herbert Tobias was sent to the Ostfront as a soldier when only 19 years old. In the exhibition in Hamburg a series of photos documents how it was for a young man, still a teenager, to be where tragedy reigns before your eyes. ”Dirt, lice and Exhaustion”, he calls one of the motives from Russia. The exhibition is big and divided into themes and styles, in documentary language both observational and staged. Fashion photography. Street motives, moments of magic. A range of Berlin photos from the 50’es, ruins and more ruins, how was it possible to rebuild this city? Staged and unstaged erotic and for the post-war period provocative homosexual tableaux.
Written 05-06-2009 23:21:55 by Tue Steen Müller
A museum for René Magritte has opened in Brussels and as the cultural channel of Europe, arte celebrates this important event. But how to make a film about an artist, whose oeuvre was huge, an artist who behaved like a good bourgeois without any scandals attached and without any wish to come up with any easy interpretations. And yet such an influential artist for current filmmakers and designers and other visual artists who claimed or claim to be in line with the surrealist thinking. How?
Watched on arte, June 4 2009. Repeats on 7/6, 17/6 and 22/6
Written 04-06-2009 21:55:30 by Tue Steen Müller
For lovers of Stanley Kubrick – and who is not? – the festival programmes a documentary by British Jon Ronson, made for Channel 4’s True Stories, 48 minutes long. The text about the film and its background goes like this:
Written 04-06-2009 21:39:48 by Tue Steen Müller
Taking place in Amsterdam June 11-14 at the Film Museum this international festival for films on art presents an exclusive selection of films, with Agnès Varda (photo) as honorary guest meeting an audience that has the possibility to watch a fine retrospective of her works. The festival has an excellent website beautifully built with trailers that makes you want to go and be there. In a documentary world where many festivals are simply based on taking titles from Amsterdam idfa or DOKLeipzig, this is a refreshing and different approach. Here is a quote from the ambition of the organisers:
“Most of the films selected for the festival will be screened for the first time in the Netherlands. DOKU.ARTS wants to remain a small festival, presenting between 20 and 30 films. There are no competitions or awards, but the festival invites all the directors to attend the screening of their films in Amsterdam. The in-depth film talks, moderated by Dutch art and film critics, are at the heart of the festival.
DOKU.ARTS was founded in 2006 at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 2008 the new director of the Filmmuseum, Sandra den Hamer, formerly director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, invited the festival to move to Amsterdam. Founder and artistic director of the festival is Andreas Lewin.
Written 03-06-2009 16:15:23 by Tue Steen Müller
”Cooking History” by Slovak director and producer Peter Kerekes (photo) has been praised on filmkommentaren.dk and Kerekes is again on the hunt for funders of his new film project on astronauts that he presented while participating in European Film Promotion's Producers On the Move at Cannes. Taken from the always updated and well edited IDF site is this text:
"At the pitching forum I was among the last ones and I didn't want to cloy tired listeners with figures and percentages, so I started telling jokes about cosmonauts," he told FNE. He woke up the audience, and suddenly Cosmonauts, which was to be mentioned at the end of his presentation about (another project) Things, became topic number one.
Kerekes' latest film Cooking History won the Special Jury Prize at Hot Doc in Toronto and honourable mention at the Planete Doc Review in Warsaw. "We experienced coming in second - and it is similar to being the second one in the selection for a cosmonaut," Kerekes said, describing the source of the idea that led to the new project. The film will explore human stories of second-place cosmonauts from the USA, former USSR, Israel, and post-communist countries...
Cosmonauts is currently in development. The treatment is due by September 2009, with a script by autumn 2010, and shooting in 2011.
Written 02-06-2009 23:54:12 by Tue Steen Müller
I do consider the film of Gideon Koppel as one of the most important in the last couple of years. It has been written about on filmkommentaren.dk several times (use the "search" button). I saw it on dvd in Lisbon and Copenhagen, and on a big screen with 1500 spectators at the Magnificent7 festival in Belgrade last January. With great joy I discover that the film has been released in UK cinemas with a (what else?) brilliant and positive review in The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw (May 29). Here is an excerpt:
This delicate, tonally complex film by Gideon Koppel is a documentary ove-letter to Trefeurig, the Welsh farming community in Ceredigion where he grew up, and where his parents found refuge from Nazi Germany during the second world war. It is a rural society, outwardly placid and at one with a landscape of stunning beauty, but in fact in crisis. Koppel's film takes as its starting point the closure of the local school, a definitive, calamitous loss for a place where shops and bus services have already vanished. The movie pays tribute to the grit of a people who may yet revive their economy, but it acknowledges a darker possibility, for which the sentimental note of an "elegy" is not appropriate. Slowly, but surely, Trefeurig appears to be dying, and Koppel's camera captures the consequent ripples of loss and regret.
Written 02-06-2009 16:22:10 by Tue Steen Müller
Of course it needs to be celebrated, the 20 years of Sunny Side of the Doc, now in la Rochelle for a couple of years, before in Marseilles with a prologue in Lyon. Lots of memories for someone like me who were at almost all of the markets when in wonderful Marseilles (and to the prologue in Lyon, I still have the impressive catalogue from there) but not yet in la Rochelle. It is a place to go and meet old and new friends, and to launch your new film projects or give an update on the one, you presented the year before. Veeery French, some people say, maybe and so what...
Focus this year is of course on presenting new potential financiers from networks and platforms, introducing cross media, and making people aware of the educational market. In other words, it is not only about meetings and hearing about the classical tv broadcasters.
But don’t forget, if you go there, to go and watch some of the masterpieces that Sunny Side presents to celebrate the documentary genre: 12 of 38 ”emblematic films from the last 20 years” will be presented on a big screen, three of them by Nicolas Philibert, La Ville Louvre, La Moindre des Choses and Retour en Normandie (all reviewed or mentioned on this site).
Written 02-06-2009 15:29:25 by Tue Steen Müller
Innovative Lynch stands behind a new fascinating website film project that must appeal to all documentarians. According to RealScreen ” the online home of esteemed film director David Lynch will serve as a hub for 121 short documentary web films. The series, dubbed Interview Project, will feature a new episode every three days over the course of the next year. The films, produced through Lynch's production company Absurda Films, range from three to five minutes in length and were shot and edited by Lynch's son, Austin, and fellow filmmaker Jason S. They're the result of a road trip across the US in which the team found subjects through myriad ways: in bars, on highways, mowing their lawns.”
Check the site and watch the first episode launched yesterday, and hear what Lynch himself has to say about it.
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